With the free-agent signing period approaching, we'll take a closer look at each of the Buffalo Bills' free agents, finding the closest matches in last offseason's free-agent class:
Pending Bills free agent: Dan Carpenter
Experience: 6 seasons
2013 stats: 16 games played, 33-of-36 on field goals (91.7 percent), 25-of-25 in second quarter or later, 4-of-6 from 50-plus yards
Last offseason's closest match: Steven Hauschka
Experience: 5 seasons (entering 2013)
2012 stats: 16 games played, 24-of-27 on field goals (88.9 percent), 29-of-31 in second quarter or later, 1-of-4 from 50-plus yards (for Seattle)
Signed with: Seattle Seahawks
Contract: 1 year, $65,000 signing bonus, $715,000 base salary
Overview: Hauschka's NFL career came on slowly after he was signed by the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free-agent. He joined the Seahawks, his sixth team, in 2011. His 2012 performance earned him a one-year deal from the Seahawks that he turned into his best season yet: He was 33-of-35 (94.3 percent) on his field goals and now owns a Super Bowl ring. Hauschka is now the top free-agent kicker available, providing some competition for Carpenter on the market.
Last offseason's second-closest match: Phil Dawson
Experience: 14 seasons (entering 2013)
2012 stats: 16 games played, 29-of-31 on field goals (93.5 percent), 25-of-28 in second quarter or later, 7-of-7 from 50-plus yards (for Cleveland)
Signed with: San Francisco 49ers
Contract: 1 year, $1 million signing bonus, $1.25 million base salary
Overview: Dawson turned 39 in January, yet he is still one of the NFL's most accurate kickers. His 2012 season, statistically the best of his 15-year career, set him up for a late-career payday with the 49ers. His numbers dipped slightly last season -- he was 32-of-36 (88.9 percent) on field goals -- but like Hauschka, Dawson is a free agent this spring.
Verdict: Dawson and Hauschka are two of the top kickers on the free-agent market, joining Dallas' Dan Bailey. While Carpenter is coming off the best season of his career, teams in need of a kicker will look to Hauschka or Dawson first, assuming they hit the open market next month. Meanwhile, the Bills must first decide whether they want to assign Carpenter with the franchise tag. The NFL has yet to release its franchise tag figures, but the amount for a kicker is expected to be about $3.4 million. That cost makes it unlikely that the Bills tag Carpenter, although it can't be ruled out. If the Bills want to keep Carpenter as their kicker -- and potentially move on from Dustin Hopkins, one of their draft picks last season -- then they would be smart to try to re-sign Carpenter at a deal similar to Hauschka's.